Police want to arrest the mother of two Lakeville teens missing since April 2013, saying recent evidence shows she was involved in the girls’ disappearance.
Sandra Grazzini-Rucki was charged last week with three counts of felony deprivation of parental rights, Lakeville police Lt. Jason Polinski said Tuesday. He said police do not know where Grazzini-Rucki is and have not been able to speak with her since Gianna and Samantha Rucki disappeared. A Star Tribune story in April of this year provided new information that enabled police to build a case for an arrest warrant, Polinski said.
Grazzini-Rucki’s attorney, Michelle MacDonald, said Tuesday that her client doesn’t know where her daughters are and has nothing to do with their disappearance.
Asked if Grazzini-Rucki will surrender herself, MacDonald replied: “I don’t see why she wouldn’t.”
Samantha and Gianna were 14 and 13 when they ran from their home without their shoes and coats on a 30-degree day. About three weeks after the girls disappeared, they appeared on a local TV news show and said they fled because they were afraid of their father. That was the last time they were seen in public. The girls are now 17 and 15.
Their disappearance came amid a bitter divorce and custody battle that began in 2011 between their mother and their father, David Rucki.
Grazzini-Rucki has accused her ex-husband of abusing her and their children; Rucki said his ex-wife brainwashed the children to make up the allegations. In September 2013, a judge granted custody to Rucki and visitation to Grazzini-Rucki.
This isn’t the first time Grazzini-Rucki has been accused of being involved in the girls’ disappearance.
During a September 2013 divorce trial, the children’s court-appointed advocate testified that she believed the girls were in their mother’s care. In his order granting custody to the father, Dakota County District Judge David Knutson wrote that “the evidence … suggests that [Grazzini-Rucki] knows where her two missing children are and is actively involved in concealing them.”
In April, police described Grazzini-Rucki as a “person of interest” in the case. But Polinski said that nearly all of their leads were exhausted when the Star Tribune reported the statements of a self-described witness to the girls’ flight. Dale Nathan, a longtime critic of family courts and a suspended attorney, said that when Samantha and Gianna ran away, their mother picked them up in her car, and the four drove around for two to three hours before he was dropped off.
“Dale Nathan’s statement, and then corroboration through others of his statement led to the charges,” Polinski said.
MacDonald said Tuesday that Nathan’s story was not true. Grazzini-Rucki told the Star Tribune in April that she didn’t help her daughters run away and said that she was prohibited by Knutson from speaking with police. A judge’s order contradicts that claim.
The charges and warrant for Grazzini-Rucki’s arrest were filed under seal because of police fears that she would go into hiding. But a reference to the warrant was accessible to the public on a Dakota County Sheriff website since at least last Friday.
Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie blamed a glitch for allowing the display of records that were supposed to be kept under seal. The record was taken off the website Tuesday afternoon.